As we enter 1985, the year I graduated high school, the first band I listened to here is one that was probably way more significant to me and a few of my friends than most other people. After years of minimal recording and performing, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page finally stepped back into the limelight, following Robert Plant with his own act. He co-founded the band “The Firm” with Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers. They ultimately recorded two albums, the first more successful than the second, and toured fairly consistently for approximately two years with this lineup. Their self-titled debut album is nothing spectacular, but for me it enabled an amazing highlight of my musical life.
The best songs on the album are the opening track, “Closer”, which is a good Page riff augmented with horns, and the slower and hypnotic “Satisfaction Guaranteed”, which has a great Page solo. The biggest hit from the record was “Radioactive”, which I never really loved, including the weird harmonic guitar solo. I felt a bit vindicated when I learned that song was written only by Rodgers, and he even played the guitar lead on the track. I don’t dislike Paul Rodgers, but I was never a big Bad Company fan, even as they shared a record label and management with Zeppelin, but like all of the Zeppelin solo work, the biggest liability of this record is that as good as Page still sounds at times, none of his bandmates can match up to Plant, Jones and Bonham. I actually have verifiable proof of this if you are really in need of convincing. The last song on this album is “Midnight Madness”, a nine-minute track that plods its way through and is honestly pretty dull. However, most of this melody was taken from an unfinished and unreleased track from Zeppelin called “Swan Song”. That song is easily locatable on the internet, and if you listen to it in comparison to “Midnight Madness”, the distinction is significant. The drums explode in sound, the bass drives, and even with no vocals, it is just a way better performance.
The rest of the album is inconsistent. I like “Make or Break” and “Someone to Love”, and their cover of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is decent, if not great. However, for all of this up-and-down music, it did allow me the opportunity to see Jimmy Page, my guitar god, live for the first time. Like Plant, The Firm did not play any Led Zeppelin or Bad Company, so the setlist was comprised of this album plus some solo material from each artist. Jimmy Page was on-task for the performance, and although he didn’t play any full Zeppelin tracks, near the end of the show, the violin bow, an essential part of his extended solo in “Dazed and Confused” came out, and bathed in fog and lasers, James Patrick Page gave us all what we wanted. Needless to say, we were euphoric and grateful for the limited glimpse of the past. I know Mike was there, and I believe Jim was there but may have over-prepared for this one if I recall correctly. I would assume some combination of Matt and/or Shane were also there for the guitar wizardry. Thanks, Jimmy… it was a night I will never forget.